As in writer’s block, but relating to your whole life. That’s what I’ve felt about coming to Dhaka in the past. A black hole from which escape is very difficult.
I guess that’s why, since high school, I’ve been coming back less and less. I see Dhaka as what my life could become, should I let it — the dark side of my personality finally taking over for good.
In many ways, I’m being unfair to Bangladesh. The changes here have rolled through almost overnight (if you count almost 20 years as overnight). There used to be a time, when I visited my family in the 70s and 80s, when the roads used to be clear of any cars after 8pm, where convenience stores were few and far between, where even picking up a toothbrush involved planning and a 20 minute drive. The 70s and 80s didn’t see much economic development, and change was slow. Enter globalization, in the 90s, and a rapid period of development, both economic and social. Today, city-wide all-day traffic jams make a half mile trip take half an hour. Commerce abounds, and restaurants are everywhere. Crate and Barrel quality imports enter the local market straight from the Chinese manufacturers as private label goods. Here, at least, one can see the benefits that globalization has had on Asia — at least the middle and upper class of Asia. Their lives have definitely improved.
But for me, Dhaka represents stagnation — my last two years of high school were here, and were filled with long periods of boredom and frustration. Escaping back to the US was the beginning of my freedom, not only from my parents, but from a society that is often small-minded, judgmental, and ultra-materialistic. Wealth, and the accumulation thereof, is seen as primary measure of success and power. I realize this can be said about almost anywhere in the world, but it seems to me that due to the extreme poverty that is prevalent here, the materialism is more pronounced. And I find myself easily falling into that mindset, or being a victim of its consequences.
But I’m generalizing. Things aren’t all bad here — people aren’t ALL evil. My dilemma is, that as an unemployed broke-ass, I could probably get a job here relatively easily, either with an NGO, or with a local multinational — the salary would be pitiable by Western standards, but I could actually live relatively comfortably here.
This would also (hopefully) give me an opportunity to work on my own business projects which so far, I’ve been stagnating with. If I were here, I could find other individuals who could help me launch my ideas and make them a reality. I could even work on products for the export market. Even China, which remains one of the countries that I would like to maintain a connection with, is a closer flight from here, and business with China is booming in Bangladesh (as it is everywhere).
So I’m actually considering it as a real possibility, especially after June — once I take my Foreign Service Exam.
Like I’ve mentioned before, I have trouble making decisions. Every time I come here, I am able to convince myself that I can give up my dreams of world domination and settle down to make babies with some hot young thing.